Film Review: Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

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A young woman, muted after a sexual assault as a child, is trained to seek violent revenge on those who have wronged her after being kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute.


“Thriller: A Cruel Picture” is one of the great “all time” grind house exploitation films of the 70’s. In fact, it was more than apparent that the film’s influence spilled over into Quentin Tarantino’s opus “Kill Bill” which features one of its main characters (Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver) wearing the iconic eye patch. The film was also noted as inspiring Uma Thurman’s character from the film. Well known for its extreme content and distinction of being one of the earlier femme fatale revenge films, “Thriller: A Cruel Picture” was also known by its other titles ” They Call Her One Eye“, “Thriller” and “Hooker’s Revenge”. This Swedish-based film would go onto to inspire a smattering of rape/revenge films through out the years.

“Thriller” always seemed to do something that many films struggle with, which was provide the perfect setting for an action, grind house, extreme, and horror-seasoned piece of cinema. It gained notoriety for its rape / revenge scenes and the eventual empowering of our main character Frigga/Madeleine (Christina Lindberg) who returns the pain she received in her life full force by the film’s 3rd act.

Sexually assaulted at an early age, Madeleine became mute from the traumatic experience. She finds herself left under her parents care and a series of therapy counselors through out her life. Older now, she accepts a ride from a stranger (when she misses her appointment) named Tony who wines and dines her (eventually taking her to his house). Tony is charming, polite and shows her a good time which becomes a ploy to get her to his house. Upon sharing a bottle of wine, she is drugged unconscious until a man named “Doctor” Sam can arrive to inject her with a shot of Heroin. This begins the process which instantly hooks Madeleine on the constant delivery of 2 shots a day. Instantly she is forced into house-call prostitution from wealthy businessmen who visit her several times a day.

Tony acts as the house pimp boasting that Madeleine is the 5th girl this year they have tricked into sexual slavery. The addiction acts as a security factor for keeping them from running. Though upon her first customer, Madeleine viciously scrapes the man’s face before he can make his advances. This act sends Tony in to “teach” her a lesson per way of an actual close-up knife-to-eye penetration gouging scene (the film notes that an actual corpse was used for this close up!).

With eye-gouging scenes not that common yet, “Thriller” gained a reputation as having one of the earlier extreme scenes for its time. The film also managed to add a few inclusions of “hardcore p*rn” with on-screen penetration scenes upping the game (this ended up getting the film banned by the Swedish censorship board0. These scenes were noted as being “added in” to appeal to the p*rnography trend during its run. Still, while they fit the premise, they always have seemed out of place against the professional style of this film.

Christina Lindberg was soon on the radar with her extremely sexy good looks and “girl with a shotgun” approach to the film’s roll out. Christina Lindberg was making a name for herself at the time with a string of erotica, exploitation and soft core motion pictures.

As the film’s plot progresses, Madeleine begins pocketing extra money from her sessions to purchase weapons, learning to drive and enabling herself in martial arts training. What really works in this sequence is that its not just a quick Resident Evil-style “suddenly enabled” sequence. It takes its time, is spread out between her daily rapings and really feels like this character puts in the effort to become self-empowered. The last act of course is Madeleine inflicting revenge, though her choices of process are what really sells the off beat nature to the film.

The film was directed by Bo Arne Vibenius who planned to keep “Thriller: A Cruel Picture” on the commercial end of releases. It is really is its own beast with such a hybrid of genres interwoven into its structural arc. For an early film, that emerged out the 70s, “Thriller: A Cruel Picture”, is a one of a kind extreme-laced experience. I highly recommend this film as a movie to see more than once.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973) is now available on blu ray from Synapse Films

Director: Bo. A Vibenius
Starring: Christina Lindberg, Heinz Hopf
Runtime: 107 minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2022
Language: Uncompressed PCM Original Swedish 2.0 Mono / Uncompressed PCM English Dubbed 2.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio: High-Definition 1080p Widescreen (1.66:1) Presentation
Formats: 1080p Blu-ray
Region: All Regions

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